Developers of classroom management software are regularly updating their products to meet the needs of educators. Many of the packages are still being developed by small, mom-and-pop operatorsi.e., companies created by former educators who have direct knowledge about what is valuable in the classroom.
Software on the market today ranges widely in terms of features and complexity, as well as cost. However, the author observes that the “category killer” program that combines everything that’s needed into one simple, online program has not yet been developed.
Here is a quick look at the leading packages available today:
- Classroom Planner (http://www.classroomplanner.com).
Built around very clean and simple web screens, this is a basic classroom management program (grades, seating assignments, scheduling, etc.) that is easy to learn and use. Although this software is web-accessible, only teachers and administrators can access the database; parents cannot.
- Classroom Windows 5.0 (http://www.classroomwindows.com).
Essentially an expanded spreadsheet for tracking students’ grades. Has capacity for classes of up to 120 students. The software is extremely inexpensive: a free version can be downloaded on the web, and the “Pro Edition” is only $20. The software itself is not web-accessible.
- FastTracker (http://www.calicoed.com).
In addition to gradebook features, Fast Tracker provides some enhancements, such as seating charts and a way to send eMail to parents and students with the touch of a single button. Easy to import initial student names and data, although the “Help” functions are minimalso if something is not clear, it may be difficult to find an answer.
- Gradebook2 (http://www.gradebook.com).
A good, basic program from Excelsior, one of the leading developers of gradebook programs. Gradebook2 includes the basics, as well as modules for lesson plans, discipline notes, and attendance reports. It is very web-friendly, including the capability to input digital photos of students into seating charts and to convert information into HTML so that parents can have access. Can be purchased for $50, or comes as part of Excelsior’s Pinnacle software program (see below).
- GradeQuick 5.0 (http://www.jacksoncorp.com).
Provides all the basic features in an easy-to-use format, and more. It enables teachers to customize reports about individual students or classes and to send those over the web. Good interface with the web, if teachers want to maintain student info online. Price is on the higher end, $70.
- Pinnacle (http://www.gradebook.com).
This is Excelsior’s souped-up package. It integrates virtually everything that a teacher would needmaster class schedules, attendance, grades, rosters, and progress reports. It facilitates web-based feedback, as well as acting as a phone-message machine. One interesting feature is the ability to generate letters to parents automatically when their children reach a predetermined performance level.
- TaskStream (http://www.taskstream.com).
Rather than being a gradebook and organizer, this software focuses on professional development and curriculum management by providing short courses on how to use software and the web. A “Lesson Builder” feature helps teachers develop courses that match state standards. The software also connects teachers with experts who can help them develop their courses and projects, especially those who use the web. It facilitates the exchange of ideas from mentor to teacher and teacher to teacher, but does not have grade-management capability.
- ThinkWave Educator 2.2 (http://www.thinkwave.com).
This web-based service can be a stripped-down grading program, or it can be combined with other services from ThinkWave for managing attendance, classroom assignments, communications, etc. It’s a bit complex for the uninitiated.